Paris/Normandy Trip report

Old Aug 26th, 2002, 10:07 AM
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Paris/Normandy Trip report

I so enjoyed reading everyone else's trip reports before going on my trip, I feel compelled to share my story as well--will try to post all on one thread.

Day 1--Paris
We were so looking forward to escaping the oppressive heat of the east coast heatwave, only to find the day we land begins a similar heatwave in Paris. Ugh!

Unfortunately, we were unable to book at the Hotel Caron de Beaumarchais for this leg of the trip, so we instead elected to stay at the Hotel St Louis--still close to our beloved Marais, in a safe area, and from photos it looked to be similar in cuteness.

Hotel St Louis was a major disappointment. The rooms were fairly dreary, with a low-rent college dorm look to them. We had requested an "extra bed" for the third person in our party, which cost $50 and was essentially, a cot. The bathrooms were nicer, but cheap bath products and the towels provided were the same type one would find in a high school gym locker room. Overall, definately NOT comparable to Caron de Beaumarchais. Also they charge 9 euros for bfast which amounts to tiny, bad croissants (did not believe this was possible to find in paris) and some bad oj. We only did this once, otherwise we went to the much better boulangerie around the corner and had very yummy breads.

I won't say the hotel was BAD, just not as nice as I had expected for 195/night. The location was very convenient for us, and the ile st louis could not be any cuter. I would recommend staying at the Hotel des 2 iles or the Hotel Lutece, which are on the same street instead.


Old Aug 26th, 2002, 10:19 AM
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Here are some of the restauraunts, most were recommended:

Au Gourmet en L'Ile--FABULOUS--very nice owners and fantastic food. We went here twice. Would recommend anything listed as their specialty, but their signature pork dish is OUT OF THIS WORLD (and i'm not a big pork fan.)

Cafe Du Flore (something like that) Was recommended by the Patricia Wells book for food and "breathtaking view" We thought it was way overrated. We went for brunch and paid 20 euros for an omlette, tea, OJ and a basket of pastries. I'm not one to go cheap on food while traveling, but I did think that was a bit much. Oh and 5 euros for a small bottle of vittel and when we asked for another tiny pot of Jam (like you get on a hotel tray), we were charged 2 euros for it! The food was not all that and the "view" of the backside of Notre Dame did not make up for it.

St. Catherine du Marais--my husband and I always go here, mostly b/c it was the first place we ate in Paris back when we were really poor student travelers, and found it very romantic. We still have a soft spot in our hearts for it, but realized the food is okay, but not outstanding.

La Castiofiore--another place we love, and it never dissapoints. We especially like the owner of the place, who is extremely entertaining, and the food is really outstanding. (Italian) We went here twice as well.

Had lunch one day at the Louvre cafeteria--was actually very good!

And, of course, the Bertillon ice cream. Had it every day. One major advantage of staying on the Ile St. Louis.
Old Aug 26th, 2002, 10:26 AM
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Oh and forgot to mention although the Bertillion store is closed in August, there are many others on the Ile that also have it and sell it via walk-up windows, the lines are pretty long at all of them.

Ok--sights. This was my fourth time going, but we had along with us a first-timer, so we went to the big sights. Do I have to mention you really MUST get the Paris Museum Card? Most everyone probably knows all about this, but I am constantly amazed at how many people choose to stand in line forever rather than invest in the card. Just do it.

I will say I found most were far more crowded than I had ever seen them. For the first time I got the audio tour, which I would recommend to all--you get way more out of it. Also we went on a special guided tour of the inside rooms not on the basic tour, which was very cool. Even got special access to Louis XIV's bathroom! If you have the museum card, you get a major discount on the special guided tours. Also saw the Fountains in action, which I had never seen before!

Old Aug 26th, 2002, 10:36 AM
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The people--

I love Paris, always referred to it as my favorite place on earth. After this trip, I'm not so sure anymore.

The heat made everyone quite a bit angrier, aggressive. We saw a man slap his girlfriend full on the face in the middle of the louvre, several heated altercations on the metro and in museums, and I experienced rudeness for the first time while visiting france. I had not experienced this before, and was not excited about it, especially since I do speak enough french to get around.

Lastly, I was also "grabbed" while walking down the halls of the metro with my female friend. I at first thought the man was going to steal my bag, but apparently he had another target in mind. Considering I happen to be 5 months pregnant made the whole experience even more disconcerting. I didn't go anywhere without my husband after that. On one occasion, I walked by myself just around the corner from my husband for like 2 minutes and some other guy came up to me, wanted to hug me or something. I'm not a damn fertility idol!

Oh, and the stink factor is definately raised when the temperatures are high. I usually expect some of that, as part of the total european experience. By the end of this trip, however, I had honestly had enough with the BO assaulting you at almost every turn. I don't know how people can stand to smell like that.
Old Aug 26th, 2002, 11:00 AM
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We were ready to escape the heat of Paris for a slower pace of life in Normandy--train trip was wonderful, I would definately recommend going 1st class to avoid the crowds.

Rented a car in Caen (AVIS). Was offered a BMW for only 6 euros more a day. Why not? Only problem was, we later discovered the car had a problem starting up at times. A few times, it took 15 minutes and 30 starts before it got running. This was definately a low point, and Avis customer service was of no help. It was only for 2 days, but it was a pain in the butt.

Stayed at a wonderful Chambre d'Hotes outside Caen which I wont mention the name of simply because they are closing as of this week (the house has been sold), so you would not be able to stay there anyway, but I would highly recommend staying at one of these places rather than an in-town hotel. So much nicer.

Saw the Peace Memorial, the beaches, all wonderful, very touching. Had some incredible food as well. Anything with apples will be the best you've ever tasted. I find all the fruit I have while in France is the best I've ever had.

Next--back to paris
Old Aug 26th, 2002, 11:11 AM
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Last installment.

Back in Paris, this time staying at the Caron de Beaumarchais. Made the Hotel St Louis look even worse, and made the last couple of days much nicer than the first 5. Also the weather had cooled greatly which made all the difference in the world.

By this time, we were getting a little tired of the usual 3 course french meals, were looking for something different. We asked Alain, the owner of the Caron, about the chinese restauraunts that proliferate in the Marais. He advised NOT to go to any of those, the food is usually frozen and reheated and you run the risk of food poisoning. Instead, he sent us to a Thai restauraunt in the Bastille area, called the Blue elephant. This was by far THE BEST thai food I have ever had in my life, and quite possibly the best food we had in france. The restauraunt itself is like a hidden paradise, with fountains and vines everywhere, you will not believe it exists in Paris. The food/service was really outstanding, and was exactly what we needed.

We also ate at Bofinger, which came highly recommended, but I found it to be overly touristy and not that great food-wise.

The last night, we ate at Chez Marianne in the Jewish Quarter, which had sort of a middle eastern/north african menu which was another good change after more than a week of non-stop french food. (don't get me wrong, i LOVE french food, and it was all good, but after several days in a row..)

Overall it was a great trip, enjoyed by all! I'll post another thread about my advice for traveling in France while pregnant--it was a thread I wished I could find before I left, so thought I would share my experiences (for what its worth.) Will be happy to answer any questions!

Old Aug 27th, 2002, 04:31 PM
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Old Aug 27th, 2002, 05:37 PM
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Alison, sounds like a great trip! Thanks for the report!

Old Aug 27th, 2002, 05:50 PM
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Alison, thanks for the info. My husband and I are visiting Paris in 2 weeks (first time) and I've jotted down some of your recommendations for dining and sights. Thanks again for sharing your experiences.
Old Aug 29th, 2002, 12:24 PM
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Allison, We would love to hear more detail about the Normandy portion of your trip. We're leaving in TWO days and would appreciate hearing more about where you stayed, ate, and sights seen -- especially the ones you felt were worthwhile and those that were a waste of time and/or $$$! Thanks!
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